The Houston Dynamo began their 2019 U.S. Open Cup campaign — and the quest to defend the title they won last September — with an unexpectedly nervy 3-2 win over USL Championship newcomers Austin Bold FC at BBVA Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Dynamo didn’t take long to dominate, getting their first corner kick just 36 seconds into the match, and scoring the first of three first-half goals in the 14th minute, courtesy of Tomás Martinez. Matías Vera played Marlon Hairston in for a shot, which was blocked, but Martinez swooped in to slot in the rebound for the opener.
Martinez would assist on the second Dynamo goal in minute 31, taking a DaMarcus Beasley pass up the left flank and crossing it to Ronaldo Peña, who doubled the lead.
Then, in the 40th minute, the Dynamo went on a break upfield, with Vera and Peña doing a neat give-and-go resulting in Vera getting on the scoresheet. Not all the Dynamo players exulted though — Beasley had been taken down by Bold midfielder Sonny Guadarrama with a nasty cleat-to-the-ankle, earning a yellow card for his trouble, and stayed crumpled to the turf while teammates celebrated the goal upfield. Beasley did get up gingerly, though, and was able to return to action.
The Bold were, to their credit, able to find their way back into the match soon after halftime. They got a goal back less than three minutes into the second half, on a Xavi Baez free kick that found its way through the Dynamo wall. Then, 10 minutes later, the Bold made it more interesting than the Dynamo faithful would have liked, with Isaac Promise finishing a rebounded shot from fellow sub Demar Phillips to put the Bold — who played their first USL Championship match less than three months ago — within a goal of the defending champions.
And yet, the Bold could get no closer in the remaining spell, despite pressing on offense and withstanding the occasional Dynamo attempt — including a Martinez breakaway at the end of regulation that just sailed over the bar, and a stoppage time shot by new signee Michael Salazar that just skipped wide of the target.
After the match, Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera voiced disappointment over the contrast between the Dynamo team that took the field and the one that came out after halftime. “I don’t know if you saw the same that we saw,” he lamented. “But it was two different teams . .. and I’m disappointed. I offer my apologies to the fans that made the effort to come over here to watch that second half . . . that’s not acceptable. I’m not happy because of that, because we cannot relax, we cannot stop playing. And in the second half, we stopped playing. We didn’t show personality, w didn’t show character, we didn’t show anything.”
While Bold coach Marcelo Serrano credits the change in the match to his team’s change in tactics, employing more of a high press and being more aggressive, Cabrera characterized the change after halftime as, if not complacency, a letting off that they might not be able to withstand deeper into their Open Cup run.
“We just played 45, and then we stopped playing, and that was embarrassing,” Cabrera explained. “I feel really bad, embarrassed about our performance in the second half, because if we play like that against any MLS team, we’re going to be looking really bad.”
He did also promise that they’d aim to figure it out, adding, “We need to talk internally. And then we need to figure it out, be willing to find reasons . . . and then we need to work on that.”